Explore the History of a Great American Tradition
One of eight children, Jabez Gorham was born on February 18, 1792. A few years after his father's death, Jabez was apprenticed at age 14 to Nehemiah Dodge, one of the founders of the silverware and jewelry industry in 18th-century New England. After learning his craft for seven years, Jabez formed a partnership that failed within five years. The determined young man then formed his own business as "Jabez Gorham, Jeweler." Achieving enough success to hire a small staff, Jabez was the first to make "French filigree" jewelry and a special kind of gold chain known as the Gorham chain. But the business struggled until 1831 when Jabez and his craftsmen began making "coin silver spoons," which had become quite popular throughout the northeast.
FROM FATHER TO SON
Jabez took on partners and the enterprise flourished. He sold his interest in the partnership and retired for a brief period. Then he repurchased the silver business from former partner Henry Webster, a talented silversmith. But, by now, Jabez was wealthy and he didn't want to devote much time to the business, so he brought his son, John, into the Gorham company. However, John left the company after only a few months because of problems with the foreman. He worked at various jobs and then rejoined his father as a partner. After John convinced his father to borrow a considerable sum to expand the company facility, Jabez sold his entire interest in the company to his son. John managed to pay off the debt and make the company grow. In fact, over the next 15 years, John and his associates evolved from a small shop that mostly made silver spoons to one of the largest and most prominent silverworks in the world.
A REMARKABLE LEGACY
Gorham dominated American silver from the late 19th century to the 20th century. But creating and crafting beautiful and functional silverware is only part of the story. So talented and skilled were Gorham's artisans that they were often commissioned to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces and other important designs.
For example, Gorham crafted the famous monument of George Washington for our nation's Capitol Rotunda, as well as the famous statue of Theodore Roosevelt - the last American president elected by popular mandate - outside the Museum of Natural History in New York. The sculpture of the "Independent Man" commissioned for Rhode Island's famed domed state house serves as testimony to Gorham's artistic heritage. The Lincolns, Grants and, more recently, the Bush family chose Gorham for the elegant tableware that served so many friends and guests in the White House throughout their administrations. President Bush made Chantilly the official sterling flatware pattern of Air Force One. And Mrs. Grant chose Gorham to help commemorate the nation's Centennial in 1876.
In addition to crafting monuments and presentation pieces for foreign dignitaries and heads of state, Gorham was called upon to design elaborate trophies to honor major sporting events. These included the Borg-Warner Trophy for the Indianapolis 500, the Davis Cup for tennis and the America's Cup for yachting. Other noteworthy commissions received by Gorham ranged from Mrs. Abraham Lincoln's tea set to a grand "loving cup" composed of 70,000 dimes for Admiral George Dewey in 1899. The largest single commission Gorham ever received was the famous Furber service. Ordered by Colonel Henry Jewett Furber, the president of Universal Life Insurance Company of New York, the 740-piece service embodies the opulence of high Victorian dining. Perhaps no object better demonstrates the technical and artistic talents of Gorham craftsmen than the monumental silver and parcel-gilt "Neptune" epergne made for Furber and displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876.
Throughout the years, other exhibitions of hand-hammered silver tables and ornate and imaginative holloware pieces in silver and gold earned Gorham worldwide acclaim. Gorham won the Grand Prize Medal, Gold Medal and many other international awards.
THE LEGACY LIVES ON
Now entering its third century, the Gorham hallmark has been recognized as a symbol of excellence. In a world of constant change, some things should never change like maintaining and, if possible, elevating the highest standards of workmanship. This is the commitment to the original founder's principles that is shared to this day by the metalsmiths and crystal artisans who create beautiful and functional collections bearing the Gorham hallmark. The artists of Gorham continually dedicate themselves to an enduring legacy of artistic beauty and consummate craftsmanship.